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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Is Your Writing Important Enough to Fight the Urgency Bully?

Does your writing have to settle for the dregs of your time and attention?

It is always shoved into last place in the queue?

If you frequently delay your writing because you’re bouncing from one urgency to another, your writing is the victim of the Urgency Bully.

You can fight back! You can give your writing the time and focus it deserves.

The Attractive Tyrant

So many of us rely on deadlines and other urgencies because they give us a shot of adrenaline. Adrenaline gives us the energy to do what needs to be done.

Adrenaline focuses our attention on the immediate task or situation, which relieves us of having to make the difficult decision about what really is important and what long-range vision we should be following.

And frankly, adrenaline feels good; so good that some people get addicted to it. Don’t let an adrenaline high replace writing!

Adrenaline and its constant companion, cortisol, occur naturally in our bloodstream and serve valuable functions.

But when stress becomes our default state, these stress hormones causes a whole host of problems including, as I note in Around the Writer’s Block, “…significantly reducing fluid intelligence (a.k.a creative thinking) and impairing nearly every other cognitive function: mood, memory, learning, planning, self-control and motivation.” (more about cortisol)

Urgency triggers limbic system takeovers. The limbic system is fast and effective in true emergencies, but when your limbic system is driving the bus, your creative cortex is not online. You simply can’t make innovative decisions or do your most creative work.

Stop the Bullying

otter resistanceTo end the bullying reign of Urgency, you need to stop paying attention to the bully throwing a tantrum in the middle of your life.

Instead, step back and listen to what is truly important to you.

If writing is important to you, reserve time for it. Make an appointment on your calendar and don’t give that time away to anything short of a true emergency. (Not sure if something is an emergency? Here’s a hint: if there isn’t a fire truck, ambulance, police car, Coast Guard cruiser, or other big emergency vehicle involved, chances are it’s not a true emergency.)

Refuse to listen to other people’s agendas until you have taken the uninterrupted time you need to identify your own.

First thing in the morning, resist the temptation to attend to texts, social media, email and other electronic input. Don’t read, don’t watch or listen to the news, don’t get caught up in the outrage du jour.

Ask yourself:

  1.  What long-range vision am I following as a writer, family member, professional and in other significant roles?
  2.  What medium-range goals do I need to achieve to reach that vision?
  3.  What short-term tasks do I need to do to achieve those goals?
  4.  What is truly important today?

When you can answer these questions, you’re ready to invite the world in and consider how you can collaborate and negotiate with others. I’m sure you don’t want to be an Urgency Bully in someone else’s life and dreams.

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9 Comments on “Is Your Writing Important Enough to Fight the Urgency Bully?”

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  4. Joel D Canfield September 24, 2015 at 10:00 am #

    I love the phrase outrage du jour.

    Your advice on keeping my creative brain working has been such a boon to my writing. And your science-based pointers on when to push and when to pause have helped me recognize when I truly can’t be creative due to some temporary mental health issue.

    I’m still working on honoring my product time and making enough time for play, but at least I know what works; just need to keep moving closer to it.


    • rosannebane September 24, 2015 at 10:53 am #

      Thanks Joel. I’m pretty proud of ‘outrage du jour’ — of the phrase, not being in that mental state. 😉
      I’m gratified to hear my writing is helpful to you.


  5. Lyn Cramer September 24, 2015 at 8:49 am #

    well said reminder. thanks much.


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